Saturday, May 18, 2024

The Covid pandemic reminded parents and community members across the country how valuable educators are to the education, health and wellness of our children, many of whom have coped with substantial trauma and loss. It also put enormous pressure on educators to meet the needs of their students as they adjusted from in-person teaching to virtual or hybrid and back to in-person again. We as a community should be deeply grateful to our dedicated teachers for their tireless efforts and sacrifices and should be looking for ways to help sustain and enhance their excellent work. This should include significant pay increases. It should include providing working conditions that support educators and student learning. We should recognize their contributions as professionals by increasing opportunities for collaborative decision-making with administration around important district decisions.

The Public Schools administration and the School Committee, which negotiates with the Cambridge Education Association, don’t seem to share our gratitude. Teachers and administrators have been working without a contract this year. The committee is offering an effective salary increase of 2 percent, way under current levels of inflation. In addition, it wants to be able to increase class sizes (an unsound policy that research shows is detrimental to student learning) and to transfer teachers from school to school without consultation with them or the union. They want teachers to agree to be assigned as bus and sidewalk and cafeteria monitors. They want to cut the teacher/administrator committee that is working on improving a broken teacher evaluation system and to use a state methodology to evaluate teachers based in part on students’ high-stakes test results. (This approach to evaluation has been widely discredited for reasons too numerous to address here.)

Why don’t the district and School Committee see this as a moment to reward and support teachers and administrators and welcome them to collaborations? Why would they want to undermine education by increasing class sizes? Cambridge, a wealthy city, can well afford to provide significant pay increases to teachers. We do not need to be asking them to teach in overcrowded classrooms or to do the jobs of school bus monitors. It appears to us that these proposals are designed to devalue and disempower the educators and concentrate power in the hands of the administration.

This approach is a grave injustice not only to the teachers and administrators, but to students, caregivers and the entire community. Cambridge has great educators, and we are in real danger of driving them away. The next bargaining session is Tuesday. We urge readers to reach out to the School Committee to ask them to negotiate in good faith for a contract that values and supports educators. We urge the district and committee to come to that negotiation with proposals that treat our educators with the respect and appreciation they deserve.

Andrew King, Nella LaRosa Waters, Carolyn Magid and Sheli Wortis for the Our Revolution Cambridge Education Committee